There’s a post somewhere on Twitter that goes “Once upon a time every player was the greatest player on their own team,” and it really makes you think. Because the more one thinks about it, the more one realises just how true that statement actually is.
Think of every player you’ve seen play the wonderful game of football and it applies to almost all of them. From Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba to Gervinho, Ricardo Quaresma, Nani, Harry Maguire and the list goes on and on. It’s simply the way the world works, aka the big fish in the small pond rule and for Gareth Bale, his pond was Tottenham. For two wonderfully destructive years, Bale was the greatest player in the Premier League and a man worth the then world record fee paid for him.
And who can blame Real Madrid? Because here was a man that singlehandedly tore apart an Inter Milan team that was carefully constructed and crafted by Jose Mourinho. Yet in two nights, a former left-back managed to not just score goals but he singlehandedly kept a side that had no business of surviving in with a chance of doing just that. And now, just under a month since Bale’s return to Tottenham and North London is still buzzing.
Not from the VAR controversy that has marred their time this season or the fact that Harry Kane might be injured again but because for the first time in a really long time, something’s cooking at Spurs. This hasn’t happened, not for nigh on two years, the year before Mauricio Pochettino’s team managed to reach the Champions League final. Since then Tottenham have been, whether they want to admit it or not, on cruise control with them simply going through the motion.
There hasn’t been anything real happening at the club for a while, and the problem is that they know that. They settled for that because their status as a top tier English club has never been higher with only their title winning teams of the 1960/61 and 1950/51 seasons out-pipping this team. And Spurs know that because in reality, they should have won at least one title or trophy with this team before it fell apart and they walked away in search of the glittering MacGuffins.
Somehow, against all odds, they’ve managed to keep Harry Kane, Dele Alli and a few other pieces but they’re struggling to hold together a team that is clearly breaking apart at the seams. It’s why Daniel Levy took a risk and decided to bring in the great Jose Mourinho, with the hope that the man sacked from his last two jobs could turn this team around better than what Mauricio Pochettino was doing in his final days and help ingrain that winning mentality that the "Special One" is overflowing with.
And somehow, the early signs are that Mourinho is doing just that which is rather shocking and adding someone like Gareth Bale to that mix, makes for an incendiary combination. He is after all one of the many men who’ve left Spurs and one of the few that went onto better things alongside the wonderful Luka Modric. But while Modric has a subtle and more unassuming self about him, Bale’s panache and trophy winning cameos make him the superstar that a Ballon d’Or winner might never be.
Not just that, but the Welshman will be remembered not just in the modern era but well beyond that as arguably one of the greatest players to play for Wales, if not Real Madrid. After all, you’ve got to take into consideration that only 14 players have scored more goals for the Los Blancos and no one, with the exception of Ferenc Puskas, Pahino, Hugo Sanchez and Ronaldo, has scored 100 in under 250 games.
Had he played a little more towards the end, there’s no doubt that Bale would have broken into the top ten although that is not something Real would ever want. This is the man that Tottenham get even if he isn’t the one that Jose Mourinho wanted and yet, he’s exactly the man that Mourinho wanted, weird isn’t it? The Spurs boss asked for a back-up to Harry Kane, which he got, and while Bale isn’t that, not even close, what the Welshman does is ease the burden of Kane, who has been carrying this team for years.
So much so, that it’s shaped Kane into arguably one of the modern era’s most complete forwards although his insistence to try and move the team forward has affected his stats. Not that it has ever mattered to someone as selfless as Kane but Bale’s presence, alongside Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn, all builds to a potent attack. More importantly, being the naturally athletic and powerful forward that the Welshman is, it makes him, in an ideal world, ideally suited for Mourinho’s tactics.
The Portuguese’s insistence to play a low block even against Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley will hand the Welshman acres of space to run onto. That’s something he never had the chance of doing at Madrid although to be fair his all-around game improved a lot because of that. But even then, Bale does some of his most destructive work running at teams and when fit, that’s a lethal option to have.
But that’s the caveat, when fit because over the course of his time at Madrid, Bale missed 95 games, according to Transfermarkt, due to injuries. He missed the others simply because Zidane chose not to play him and that led to the jokes. That led to the “Wales, Golf, Madrid. In that Order”. Which led to the ostracization of Gareth Bale and then the departure that has seemed inevitable for a year or more, as a seven year spell ended with only 344 minutes of league football in 2020 and no league goals since March 2019.
All this is marketing gold for Spurs and at the same time, it’s a one in a life-time opportunity for the club, something that they’ll never get ever again. Re-signing a world-class offensive player and it’s something they’ve never done or atleast not done in a really really long time. It has added a sense of glamour, a shine so to speak to the windows at Tottenham with everything now viewed through rose coloured glasses.
More importantly, Bale has injected, in less than a month, something Spurs have lacked for the better part of the 2020, hope that this team can do something again. Hope, that this team can achieve a top four finish even if Harry Kane gets injured because somehow, the man with only 344 league minutes in 2020 has managed to add a sense of optimism to North London again.
And if Bale strikes gold at his old stomping grounds, then the world will go absolutely nuts especially if he leads them to the Europa League final. Because there is absolutely nothing that football loves more than a redemption story but for Tottenham, this could be the start of something even greater.